NEVADA, USA, August 15, 2003 (By Col.(Ret.) Frank B. Quesada,  Former Senate Committee Secretary) Veterans and their organizations are up-in-arms against Congress that have barefacedly precluded legitimate World War II Fil-Am veterans from benefits they rightfully deserved.

An irate excluded veteran said, “Like the devil, congress have built a wall surrounding us like peons. In Congress there are those like an artist who could paint sin in very attractive colors to deceive war veterans.”

What are they really complaining about?

For over 60 years, since the “devil” 79th Congress arbitrarily took away their veterans compensation and benefits, Congress have played these intrepid heroes of Bataan, Corregidor and the Philippine Campaign as fools while those who wield power in the name of partisan plot up in the Hill preserved their slimy pork for themselves.

Of late, there were a bumper crops of legislative measures that is once again raising fragile hopes under the harvest of, albeit unfair bills filed before re 108th Congress.

There were three distinct bills from coming from both Houses under partisan consideration of the GOP controlled committees of Congress. These are:

(I) House bill No. 2352 filed by Rep. Simmons and some sponsors – seeking amendment of title 38 U.S Code to provide eligibility for the Dept. of Veterans Affairs health care for certain Filipino World War-2 veterans residing in the U.S. It is clear in this bill that in “sub-section (a) applies to individual who is a commonwealth Army veteran or new Philippine Scout, and who (with a distinct feature for veterans – (a) “is residing in the U.S, and (b) is a citizen of the U.S. or a alien lawfully admitted to the U.S.. for permanent residence.”

(II) S-1213 filed by Sen. Specter seeking to amend title 38 U.S. Code. seeking to enhance the ability of the Dept. of Veterans Affairs to improve benefits for Filipino veterans of World War -2 and survivors of such veterans, and for other purposes. It will cost the government $11.3 million dollars.

Most distinct feature in sub-section (a)” applies to individual who is a commonwealth Army veterans or New Philippine Scout and who: (1) is residing in the United States and (2) a citizens of he U.S.. or an alien lawfully admitted to the U.S. for permanent residence.”

This bill will cost the government $19.3 million dollars.

(III) S-68 filed by Sen. D. K. Inouye seeking to amend title 38 of U.S. Code, to improve benefits for Filipino veterans of World War-2, and for other purposes.

While this bill also provides improved benefits for Filipino veterans who are U.S. citizens and who are residents, but it has a distinct provision “for providing a $100 monthly pension for Filipino non-U.S. citizens veterans who reside in the Philippines.”

Sen. Inouye felt that. after seeing for himself in his last visit to the Philippines – those Filipino veterans left out of and from US laws and bills should at least be helped with at least $100 per month at this point and time when they are subsisting only from that the Philippine government could only afford to provide for them in the amount of $100 per month in the absence of any US assistance.

Sen. Inouye after he returned from his official visit to the Philippines saw the plight of the indentured and excluded Filipino veterans from U.S. laws and current legislative measures, and who are allowed by the U.S.. to wallow under poverty level, who are fast aging, sickly and are dying by the hundreds daily without wartime-earned rightful compensation and benefits.

During the last hearing, Sen. Inouye stated a strong enjoinder pushing his bill (S-68) to cover all Filipino veterans regardless of their residence and be it in the U.S or in the Philippines.

It will cost the U.S. government only $60-milion dollars.

“One of these bills, S-1213, nevertheless, gives the most pressure for its passage because it reflects the terms of President George W. Bush’ commitment that he made to Philippine President Gloria M. Arroyo during her last State visit last May.” said PN correspondent Rita Gerona-Adkins.

In the flurry of excitement and merriment during the visit, no one in President G. M. Arroyo’s entourage, including foreign Affairs Secretary Blas Ople and Defense Secretary Angelo Reyes, nor Ambassador Albert del Rosario had scrutinized the specific provisions of S-1213 that have barefacedly discriminated the majority of the bona-fide Filipino ex-U.S Army (who are non-U.S. citizens and who reside n the Philippines.

What now favorably exists is a VA grant of medical equipments worth $500,000 to the VA medical facility on Manila, where not all veterans outside Manila will have access to said facility.

It is apparent that these bills appears to narrow down the beneficiaries of those eligible for veterans benefits who are residing in the U.S. and who are lawful residents.

In the language of the senate bill, it states upon closer look – that an eligible recipient ( a Filipino veteran) who is residing in the U.S. The term”: includes” implies that the others may not be excluded.

On the other-hand, existing law is much broader than the Senate version, and is more likely to conclude the intention of the legislature was to narrow the eligibility, rather than to expand or clarify it.

The bottom line is that the proposed law is more likely to be detrimental when compared with existing laws. Therefore, it is proper and n order for the veterans precluded from such benefits to oppose such negative bills, according to a law practitioner in San Diego.

“If and when these bills are enacted into law, veterans fear that it will have established. a firm precedent that only Fil-Am veterans who have acquired US citizenship or are lawful resident in the U.S. can become beneficiaries of current and future legislation.” According to Jerry Adevoso, the Philippine Presidential Representative and head of the Office of Veterans Affairs ()VA) based in Washington D.C.

“It is also feared by the indentured veterans as well as those who are favored with goodies – that these bad bills when enacted into law forever excludes their bona-fide comrades of the U.S. Army in WW-2 who have remained Filipino citizens, and who opted to reside in the Philippines from receiving future US veterans benefits” said Adevoso.

This is a burning issue which troubled Filipino veterans as well as their kin in the Philippines why the U.S. Congress continue to mistreat them Is it because they are not bona-fide ex-US Army veterans in the interpretation of some powerful U.S legislators who classify and segregate them as “second class veterans?”

Or is because they are not registered voters in the U.S. ? Or is it because they are not white? Veterans view such unfair act of legislation partakes the form of racial and economic discrimination prohibited and abhorred by the U.S. Constitution. And such unequal treatment does not reflect the will of the whole American people

I have been a senior contributing staff of Sen. Inouye in the “U.S. Senate Inquiry on the Unsettled Compensation and Unpaid Benefits by the U.S. Government,” and the findings of the inquiry showed that Filipino veterans were bona-fide members of the US. Army that rendered honorable and active military service in the U.S. Armed Services during World War-2 and thereafter. (See: USVA legal opinion )

“Inouye in his full page statement submitted to the July 10th hearing traced the background of the Filipino veterans issue and argued for their equal treatment regardless of where they reside , in the U.S. or in the Philippines.

He related the following: “ As a result of a citizenship statue enacted by Congress in 1990, some Filipino veterans who were able to travel came to the U.S. to become U.S citizens.

“At the same time, many other Filipino WW-2 veterans were unable to travel to the U.S. to take advantage of the naturalization benefit because of their advanced age. The law was subsequently amended under Fiscal Year 1993. The following Departments of State, Justice, Commerce and the Judiciary Appropriation Act (Public Law 102-395) to allow the naturalization process for these veterans to occur in the Philippines. Since then, a distinction had been made to provided benefits only to Filipino veterans residing in the U.S. leaving out those who are in the Philippines.

“I therefore believe that it is unfair to make a distinction between those how are here as residents and those who are in the Philippines.” Inouye said.

I am herewith quoting the benchmark decision of the U.S. Supreme Court on Insular cases, to wit:

“The Philippines is not is not a foreign territory within the meaning of the U.S. Constitution and that the Commonwealth of the Philippines was under the sovereignty of the United States. The U.S. legally involved the Philippines in a war of the U.S. against Japan. Likewise dictated the political and military strategy of the conflict.”

What some in Congress has been perpetuating against Filipino veterans is no less than critical perception which is anti-veteran and un-American.

Here is another U.S Supreme court decision, which Congress can not, and must not ignore, to wit:

“Equity is rooted on conscience equal protection of laws not achieved through indiscriminate imposition of inequalities. Historical text of the 14th Amendment became part of the U.S Constitution should not be forgotten. It is clear that matter of primacy concern was establishment of equality in the enjoyment of basic civil and political rights and the preservation of those rights from discriminatory action on the part of the State (or by individuals) based on consideration of race and color.”

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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